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After Work: Life In The Wild West - Continued

…Light is creeping into the sky. I peer into the thick shrubbery, waiting for rustling branches. The quick, nervous herky-jerky movements of foliage.

Those are the advance signs that one of my favorite denizens of South Florida is about to appear. No, not the Florida panther. Those are rarely seen these days…

After reading such a classy intro to a column you’ve simply got to know what Dona Gibbs saw emerging from those bushes.

For more of Dona’s enticing words please click on After Work in the menu on this page.

Light is creeping into the sky. I peer into the thick shrubbery, waiting for rustling branches. The quick, nervous herky-jerky movements of foliage.

Those are the advance signs that one of my favorite denizens of South Florida is about to appear. No, not the Florida panther. Those are rarely seen these days.

When they are spotted, news teams descend upon the witnesses with cameras and microphones And householders for miles around lock up their toy poodles.

My critter I’m on the lookout for is the lowly armadillo, a stealthy, if awkward looking hunter of bugs and grubs. He or she is a homely creature with a prehistoric armored plate, strange paws and feet and a ridiculous snoot.

When I see one, I laugh aloud. And I don’t mind so much that he/she has ripped up a hunk or turf here and there, looking for breakfast. Mmm, mmm, fat grubs. An armadillo’s s equivalent of two-eggs and bacon with a double order of toast.

Good thing I can coexist happily with our co-homeowner. Armadillos are persistent. Native Floridians tell me that their burrows and tunnels are so intricate and far-reaching that they’re impossible to trap. Not that I’d want to.

Live and let live, I say.

That goes for the gecko that somehow squirms into the bedroom at night. It’s on the prowl for insects. Houses down here in South Florida are veritable larders for geckos, skinks and other lizards. My gecko avails himself of the bounty.

My only quarrel with the gecko is that after gorging himself and lounging around digesting, he secrets himself under the rattan chair. There he uses a hidden corner as a WC before squeezing out under the door before dawn.

I’ll have to ask The Rug Doctor what removes those stains.

In the daytime his lizard relatives, anoles, hang out on the deck furniture, puffing out their translucent pink throats and bobbing their heads. Every inch of an anole is proud prehistoric –looking splendor.

During times when they mysteriously disappear, insects proliferate and I deal with desiccated bodies strewn across a desert of white carpet. I sadly drag out the vacuum cleaner.

After heavy rains, I can usually count on rescuing a frog or two from the pool. A frog in the bathroom isn’t unusual, but frogs in an air conditioner compressor are--and can set you back a couple of thousand dollars.

Discovering that your favorite pair of pants has somehow grown too tight just by hanging in the closet is unpleasant. Outranking that on the Unpleasant Discovery Scale is finding the tough skin and bones of a deceased frog in the corner of said closet.

Birdies abound on the golf course. But they’re not the kind found on scorecards. An extended family of ducks waddle right up to carts. They, possessing strange red lumps and bumps near their beady eyes and beaks, are no beauties. They demand—and get-- lunch leftovers.

The only eagle I’m likely to see in golf often perches in a tall dead pine overlooking the tenth tee. Several of his fellow raptors find the shallow lakes and ditches good hunting grounds. At twilight I’ve seen an osprey swoop down and grab a fish for dinner, carrying it in his talons back to an uncomfortable looking nest of twigs and sizable branches.

A redheaded woodpecker is our alarm clock. An enormous flock of parrots squawk derisively at golfers on another Palm Beach course. A confused sand hill crane hung around for a couple of days in the supermarket parking lot. Often egrets walk along the ficus hedges peeking into the windows.

A true birder would have a wonderful time looking out our living room window. Me, I’m hopelessly near-sighted so birds practically introduce themselves before I can recognize them.

We once saw an enormous turkey vulture light on our roof. That certainly was large enough for me to see. Vultures, as you know, are nature’s diligent sanitation workers. Make a note to never ask one what he had for lunch. Seeing this huge bird and knowing his reputation caused all kinds of macabre thoughts to scurry around the recesses of my mind.

Did he know something I didn’t?

There’s a den of grey foxes near one of the fairways. The kits come out and play at dusk. You learn not to leave cookout fixings unattended outdoors while you step inside for a bottle of ketchup. Those little masked thieves, the raccoons, abound.

And this being South Florida, we do have alligators. They’re protected. They move around in mating season so they’re likely to show up where they’re not wanted, except by another alligator of the opposite sex.

There’s a baby alligator in a small pool at the local riding stable. It had been hatched there. Year after year, it grows larger.

There are numerous cats, a couple of lethargic hounds and two frenetic Jack Russell terriers. The cats yawn; the dogs scratch and haul themselves into the shade, and the Jack Russells run around, trying to look busy. They never pay the gator an attention. The domestic stable inhabitants never decrease in number so I guess they are wise to gator ways. Besides there are enough rats and mice for everyone.

Kids learning to ride always want to poke at the gator. They are scolded. No poking, no prodding and definitely no touching.

Alligators were here first, they are told.

I once wondered aloud if perhaps the atmosphere at the stable might be a little more sanguine if they scooped up the gator and moved it a few miles away to a less populated area.

“Nope,” the stable manager shrugged, “He’d just come back. This is his home.”

I want to take a trek deep into the Everglades. I want to see that famed River of Grass before it shrinks even further. I don’t care if I have to canoe miles and wade hip deep in water. After all, the Everglades are only a couple of hours south from our safe, suburban compound.

My husband wishes me well on my adventure. I’ll be trudging off without him, he informs me.

The wildlife right in our backyard is enough for him. All out in the Wild West, ten miles away from the tranquil island of Palm Beach.



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